That horrid feeling. Those two words. Yep, you are likely well versed in the signs and symptoms of mothers guilt. It is a condition commonly felt when you have so many things to do, and have not been able to sufficiently juggle everything to fit *everything* in.
It is a type of guilt that has varying levels. You can feel guilty for your inability to *do* something for your kids, like not being able to take them to the beach/park/play date. Sometimes you just can’t get there. That is generally ok. Then there is the guilt that hangs around like a bad smell, because you work or just can’t do something. You feel as though you are constantly not there enough, not doing enough, not being enough for them. Or that they don’t have the best of everything (like they care), but in all reality, you are. The irony here is that we are our own worst enemies and judge ourselves to all manner of harshness when we just don’t need to!
I feel guilty for all those things that you say you will do ‘tomorrow’ or ‘in the holiday’s’. That list is kinda getting out of hand. The routine of a normal week leaves me gasping for air most weeks and still with bugger all time for myself (feel free to tell me I am selfish for wanting 10 minutes to myself!!). It also leaves me with little time to do all the extra things – build ant farms, go to the park, go to the beach, set up telescopes, paint rooms and just other random things. Then I feel guilty some days for wishing away their youth – things like ‘when they are 10 it won’t be like this…’ or ‘I can’t wait for you to be old enough to look after your own stuff’! I am sure I will miss the crappiest moments of being a mum to four young kids – even the missing shoes, spilled milk, lost water bottles and and constant refereeing – all of it. But it still does not make it any easier for the daily struggles and guilt that is in my constant psyche.
I have an ant farm box that has been sitting there for about 4 months. I really need to get it out and find some ants and let the kids marvel at it before they go back to school. The clothes that don’t fit that are shoved to the back of their wardrobe – I need to get those out and donate them. The list is seemingly endless. Do more colouring in with the kids. Play more dollies and cars. Ride with them, watch them “do” everything. But you know what? I can’t! I cannot watch everything, or play with them every minute of every day not just because I work, but because, well, they are not the centre of the universe, just the centre of mine. There seems to be no real balance of what I can do, because the goal posts always shift. I can’t just let them play out the front because they could get hit by a car, they can’t ride their bikes without training wheels so the hill is a bit of a scary thing, they can’t go to the park by themselves due to society, and playing unsupervised at home is not always a good thing (drawing on walls, nikko pens on each other, food stolen because they send a detractor, potions made with whatever they can grab from the cooking drawer). So I have to be present. But sometimes I am busy marking, working, or just being a mum and spending time with one child. Then another child does something. And then I feel guilty. I cannot split myself in four pieces and wonder how on earth I can ever do it all.
I can provide for them, ensure their is a roof over their head, clean clothes – all of it. But I can’t be there for everything. I cannot play every single game of dollies, or trucks, or hidey go seek. I feel guilty that I can’t – because isn’t that my job as their Mum? Aren’t I supposed to be smiling through all the commotion in my head (to do, groceries, work….life) and playing with them all day? I think that is the cue for the perfect mother – the specimen of motherhood that comes perfectly preened, with immaculate hair, makeup, clothing that matches and is not bedtime attire at all (pajamas), and a smile that is beautific. But these specimens are only seen on TV in an advertisement or in the minds of all us regular mothers trying to hold themselves to some form of ‘right’ way to be a mum.
I am just going to say it – I am not a perfect mother. I never ever will be. Ever. I am totally crap at sorting out my wardrobe and only marginally better at sorting out my kids. I am thankful that they have input and select much of their own clothes so they are partially to blame for epic wardrobe fails that occur when ‘that girl’ is wearing the same shirt or dress that they are – instead of thinking it to be a nightmare (as I would, actually no, I wouldn’t because if someone actually wore the same as me it would validate my dress sense – I am not alone and all that..) they think it is ‘awesome’. I am total crap at social interaction – I am awkward, either talk to much or don’t talk at all – and that is at school/kindy pick up – and is partly because I have three/four kids flinging themselves at me full of ‘look at what I did today’s’. I am impatient, I get antsy when my routine is busted. I don’t like the feeling of ‘not having anything to do’. I can only tolerate trucks/trains/dollies for small segments of time before I get the shits – either because they are not playing properly (who am I to judge?!!) or because I have so many other things to do. I wonder, when does the guilt end?
When is it reasonable enough for me to say – “I am doing the best I can – seriously”. I remember thinking about what it would be like to be a mother, and thoughts of singing (badly) lullabies, tears (mostly theirs), sick bubbies, pushing prams, making birthday cakes, big decisions and being responsible and providing a loving, warm, safe environment for at least 18 years were big ‘thoughts’. Sounded fairly reasonable. Now I see the ins and outs. The list grows of things you need to do, and the balance of who you are as a person tips heavily to just “Mummy”. There is no A-L or I in Mummy – and I don’t think Mummy is seen as a person, rather an entity that is all seeing, all knowing, and all fixing. No one for instance, can make anything quite like Mummy can. No one can procure bandaids of all types and apply like Mummy. I get it – my skills are unique and essential for four kids, but somewhere along the line in the last (almost) 8 years, I am forgetting that I am more than a Mummy. And when I do remember, I feel guilty, because surely there is something I should be doing for the kids?!
It is a cycle – one I create myself. Other mothers (now there is that acute observation) seem to have their shit together; they are not feeling defeated day in day out by their small army – like I am. They seem to have brushed their hair. They seem to have children that are polite, and appreciative. But then people say that about my kids – and they are far from that at home – so do other mothers look at me and think the same thing? Are we all just living this horrid dream where we think we are totally crap at being a mother, and all the other jobs we do, and self-propagate this guilt? Why?! I have no answers, but I am going to, starting from today, stop being so bloody difficult.
I know that I cannot possibly be alone. I know that I am not the only person who works, has kids and cannot seem to keep it all together. I know that I long for time alone, and then when I finally get maybe 5 minutes, I either fall asleep, or go and check on the kids “just in case”. As a mother I am my own worst enemy – holding myself up to values which I do not think exist anywhere in any form. I am constantly outnumbered, outsmarted and outwitted by four tiny humans who I had a big hand in making. They know my weaknesses, and I know theirs – it’s often a standoff. But I don’t give myself enough credit, nor do I think mothers everywhere do. I am not only a mother but have all these other roles – they just have to be kids. They are not going to suffer if I don’t colour with them every time, nor are they going to be worse for wear if I don’t play trucks with them every single time. I just need to be OK with that – because it is my guilt and perception of motherhood that has me feeling like I am letting them down.
So, motherhood, you are one harsh bitch! You bring me to tears of joy and pain all in one day, you have me worrying about all sorts of things, most likely including the price of eggs in China, you have me feeling inadequate on a daily basis – but, I am starting to get smarter about this. I cannot do it all – but I can do the best I can, maybe minus the guilt.
I lift my half cold tea cup in salute to all Mums out there – lets be kinder to ourselves, and to each other. No more dressing up super fancy to do the groceries huh?!